NWHL playoffs resume Friday with expansion Six the top seed

Coach Digit Murphy is eager for the Toronto Six to pick up where they left off some two months after the National Women’s Hockey League playoffs were postponed following a COVID-19 outbreak.

“We were rocking and rolling. We were primed. And then BAM!‘” Murphy said during a video conference call this week. “But we’re ready to get that energy and momentum to come back. And I’m looking forward to the new party we’re going to throw.”

Murphy’s expansion team was 4-1-1 and had won four straight before play was abruptly stopped on Feb. 3 after the Metropolitan Riveters and Connecticut Whale withdrew, and the Boston Pride reported a number of positive tests. The six-team NWHL was attempting to squeeze in its season over a two-week period with all games played in Lake Placid, New York.

Play is finally scheduled to resume on the Pride’s home ice outside of Boston starting with the semifinals on Friday, and Isobel Cup championship game Saturday. The games will be broadcast on NBCSN.

The Six enter as the top seed and play Boston (3-4). The other semifinal features the No. 2-seeded Minnesota Whitecaps (4-1) facing Connecticut (2-2), which was allowed back in and replaces the Buffalo Beauts.

The champion will be the NWHLs’ first since Minnesota won its second straight title in 2019. Last year’s Isobel Cup final between Minnesota and Boston was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Whitecaps coach and co-founder Jack Brodt is glad to be out of the Lake Placid bubble, but not pleased with being seeded second.

“Well, the bubble wasn’t fun. I’d just as soon put a stick in my eye as go to that bubble again,” Brodt said, without going into detail.

As for being seeded behind Toronto, Brodt said the league determined to go with the team with the most wins rather winning percentage.

“The league knows where I stand on this issue,” he said. “We’re living with it.”

The Six, however, went 1-0-1 against Minnesota during the preliminary rounds.

Scheduling conflicts lead to Minnesota being without two of its top four defenseman in Sydney Baldwin and Emma Stauber.

The Six are heading to Boston with a depleted roster that will be missing forwards Mackenzie MacNeil and Taytum Clairmont.

Connecticut captain Shannon Doyle, meantime, is excited by the second opportunity the Whale received to continue playing, especially when taking into account this will be her final NWHL season. Doyle, who has played for the Whale since the NWHL’s inaugural season in 2015-16, is retiring to devote her focus on coaching a girls high school hockey team in Greenwich, Connecticut.

“It’s been a roller-coaster of a season,” Doyle said.

“It’s been wonderful, really no regrets,” she added. “And I’m really hoping we can finish the year with two wins, so I can go out on a high note.”

The Whale will have forward Melissa Samoskevich on their roster, after the former Quinnipiac University star was unable to compete in Lake Placid.

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